The Longing to Leave – 2

The longing to leave one’s intimate partner brings out something that isn’t much discussed in descriptions of depression. It is the active face of the illness. We often focus on the passive symptoms, the inactivity, the isolation, sense of worthlessness, disruption of focused thought, lack of will to do anything. But paradoxically the inner loss and need can drive depressed people to frenzied action to fill the great emptiness in the center of their lives. They may long to replace that inadequate self with an imagined new one that makes up for every loss.

My experience with this phase of illness occurred when I had only limited awareness of the hold depression had on me. That may be a key to understanding the dynamic and how to respond to someone in the grip of this drive to turn life upside down. Unhappy without knowing why, I had to find an explanation, and the easiest way to do that was to look outward. I could only see my present life, my wife, my work as holding me back, frustrating my deepest desires. In effect, I was blaming everyone but me for my misery. In that state, I could only focus on the promise of leaving, finding a new mate, new work, new everything.

Every suggestion my wife might make that there was something wrong with me only brought the angriest denial. Every time she said how much she loved me only felt like a demand that I stay stuck in this unfulfilling life and do what she wanted me to do. I knew so clearly that I was not the problem, certainly not sick but for the first time on the verge of escaping into the exciting life I should have been living all along.

There is something very close to the power of addiction in the fantasy of escape. I found it almost impossible to see through the dreams of a new life. It meant so much – my survival as a person seemed to be at stake. Unaware of the full effect of depression, blocking out what my wife and others were trying to tell me, I inflicted a lot of pain on my family, thinking that I had to be brutally honest in order to save myself. Fortunately, as I noted in the last post on this subject, I had been through enough work in therapy to have glimmers of the truth, and that helped me step back from the brink.

I’m not big on offering advice, but the potentially devastating impacts of depressed people on those closest to them leads me to go a bit beyond just reflecting on what I’ve been through.

If you’re trying to deal with the sudden transformation of an intimate partner, get help, starting with friends and family. You’ve likely felt such a deep assault and wound that it would be easy to get lost in the sheer humiliation, hurt and anger of the experience, searching for what you’ve done wrong, what you could do or say to set things right. That’s a trap set for you by the voice of depression. That voice tries to persuade you, just as it has persuaded your loved one, that it’s your fault. Not true. It’s your partner’s illness that’s at the root of it. Those closest to you and your partner have doubtless noticed something strange and may have been hurt as well by new behavior. That will remind you that you’re not alone in this.

And remember that you can’t cure someone else with your words and love. They only backfire. At most, you can help your partner gradually gain awareness. It will take the combined influence of you and many others to get a depressed person to start seeing a different explanation for what’s wrong. Only your partner can do the heavy lifting. Only your partner can experience the inner change of thought and feeling that comes with the recognition that there is an illness to be dealt with.

45 Responses to “The Longing to Leave – 2”

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  1. Nettie says:

    It makes me so sad to read these posts!!!! Please know that this is the illness speaking to you and not your husband. I went through very similar thing a few months ago. The best support I could have ever ever found was through the site: http://depressionfalloutmessageboard.yuku.com/forums/1/General-Discussion

    It saved me.

  2. Leemore says:

    Bless everyone on this site. John, thank you so much for providing a forum for the loved ones of the depressed to share their experiences. I have never been through something so painful and so isolating, and I’m sure we have all felt that way… But reading stories identical to my own is incredibly reassuring and comforting, and acts as proof, helping in the fight to relinquish control. My beloved boyfriend of 3 and a half years, the man I wanted to spend my life with, has always struggled with depression. Never ever did he take an active role in managing it, and it weaved in and out of our relationship, polluting and perverting a pure, childlike and passionate love between us. We have a home together and in our greatest moments, it has been a safe, cozy place, full of warmth and joy. But that environment only sustained him for so long, and twice now, when I’ve been tending to my own life, doing things for me, like traveling to visit family or working on my art, he has completely fallen apart. I don’t believe he knows at all how to sit with and manage his feelings, he definitely doesn’t have the skill set and it doesn’t appear he has the desire either. He left, at first telling me not to personalize it, it had nothing to do with me, he loved me and didn’t want it to be this way, but it had to be. Now he’s no longer able to say I love you, is cold, very firm… And the day after tomorrow wants to see me in person. He won’t come home and says “it’s not good for him”. I think the relationship is going to end… Both from him misplacing his issues and me being completely unable, both emotionally and physically, to endure anymore of his highs and lows. I understand and see that nothing I say or do will ever be enough to cure his depression, nor is that my responsibility. If he won’t choose recovery, in an active and conscious way, as a mature adult, we have no chance… And I certainly can’t walk down the aisle to meet that person, or bear a child with him. It breaks my heart, I don’t want to lose him, we laughed so much… But I want to be happy, and I don’t know that he knows how. I gave him everything I could. It isn’t my job to teach him.

  3. Veronica says:

    I am still in a state of shock by my husband’s actions over the last 2 months. We will be married 25 years in June and 2 months ago he left stating he was no longer happy and just felt dead inside. We have always had a good marriage and I was so shocked by this. I begged him to see a Doctor and we are in marriage counseling; however, things seem to be getting worse. He has been telling me all along that he loves me and wants to work on things, but today he told me that he is no longer in love with me and he is considering divorce. He has been so cruel as far as emotionally towards me over the last 2 months. He has no emotions when I cry and does not even try to comfort me in anyway. This is a man who has always loved me so much and I am devastated. I have tried to give him the space he needs, but am terrified of losing him completely. I leave on a business trip tomorrow and he would always normally ask where I am staying and this time he didn’t even ask or seem to care that I am going. He is slipping away from me and has become a stranger to me. I have done what our counselor suggests as far as keeping myself busy with friends and other activities, but my heart is just broken. I don’t understand why I am the one who has to follow all these rules as far as not contacting him because it makes it more difficult for him and he needs space, etc. I would think at this point my decision would be so easy to make with how he has treated me, but it is not, I still love him so much and pray that this fog will lift before he makes a decision that he may regret forever.

    • Jackie says:

      My husband has gone from kind, laid back and caring to hostile cold and distant, we’d been together 34 years. I discovered he had been stressed pressured and bullied at work but that didn’t stop him leaving me, the kids and our family home. In addition to this he had a health scare DVT and not grieved for his Mum and Dad, worried he only has a short time left to live.

      He talked about having paid rainbows to kill me bringing a tool kit into the lounge so he could see it and the need to live alone to control food, shopping and cleaning. When he was at home his behaviour was odd, childish and totally off the wall, since leaving I’ve seen him have anxiety attacks and seen him use the flight response, how do I know? I’ve had agoraphobia and panic attacks myself.

      He had counselling via our GP but I discovered at Christmas he stopped going I got him into couples therapy but this was a disaster it widened the gap, even the Psychotherapist said he has a problem but can’t see it and has no motivation to deal with it.

      It’s gone from a trail separation to sort his head, to separation and now a Divorce, he said he thought he had told me he wanted a Divorce? I’ve told him to stop using our relationship as an excuse and the email he sent back to me saying it was all about work and I didn’t deserve any of this I forwarded to his solicitor and mine.

      I have never asked him to come home as I don’t want to pressure him. I sent him information I had seen about making life changing decisions whilst depressed all of which he has ignored. He seems to have pushed the self destruct button on everything, our kids no longer want anything to do with him, I have recently undergone treatment for cancer, our daughter had an operation and there was nothing to ask how we were, his behaviour is unbelievable.

      Divorce is the least of my problems I have had two family deaths and dissevered a few weeks ago he may have now lost his job. His office are stating he is off on long term sick yet he is saying he’s setting up a business? I doubt he has thought this through as he has supposedly left with very little money, in fact there is only enough money to pay the mortgage for the next few months let alone start a business, this has come as a massive shock for someone who is supposed to be highly intelligent. If I am honest the job needed to go as that was the root of the problem but the normal husband would have made sure he was financially secure we now face repossession of our home.

      People have suggested a mid life crisis, well if that was the case surely he would be making his life better not worse? Another old friend screamed down the phone at me saying he had rang her and he’s fine just sorting his life, they haven’t spoken in years! Annoyingly she had kept saying there must be more to it like an affair then said if he is ill he won’t want to feel rejected, he’s rejected us. He’s been left unable to do relationships which is even more interesting if he’s trying to set up a business, there’s no denying he’s good where business is concerned but doesn’t have the people skills and has admitted his relationships with everyone are now cold, distant and superficial.

      Sow were are we now, going through Divorce and he will very soon be on the verge of bankruptcy very odd for an Accountant.

      I’m now looking at the situation from the outside, I see everything is crumbling around him, it’s very much like watching a high speed train crash in slow motion!

      Two good books to look for are – I don’t want to talk about it by Terrance Real – I related to this, my husband is a workaholic and has buried his head in his job for years I discovered some old diaries he’s had depression since he was 15 years old he’s now 54.

      Take a look at the unofficial symptoms of depression, it’s all there about Divorce and Separation (Anne Sheffield).

      If it’s any consolation my husband has said he doesn’t like seeing me because it hurts, doesn’t want to hurt me emotionally so no idea what he thinks he’s doing Divorcing me if that isn’t emotional hurt, what is?

      The odd thing is in the 8 months he’s been gone he hasn’t redirected his post or collected his precious football collection.

      Just remember if he makes the decision it will be one he has to live with, they use our relationships as an excuse because they don’t have the willpower or motivation to get help – they’re in denial. If you can see if you can find a local support group, the one I found has been amazing. I met a really intelligent lady who is ill and she told me she had done something very stupid, I can now see why my husband is acting recklessly, it’s all to easy to see how they can be taken advantage of when they are ill and vulnerable and I remember when I was ill I lashed out but that’s because I was very frightened.

      You really need to look after yourself and get out and about as much as you can – they can only help themselves and they have to rescue themselves at some point.

      • Veronica says:

        Thank you for your response. Things have gone from bad to worse quickly. 2 weeks ago my husband talked about coming home, but tonight he told me he no longer wants to even try to work on our marriage and that he is done. He says this with absolutely no emotion. He actually says that he is doing it because he cannot give me what I need. That is pathetic, because all I want and need is him. He also told me that he hasn’t loved me for 2 years, but yet he continues to tell me that he will always love me. I still love him so much and do not know how to let go. I know he is horribly depressed and can see that this is a decision he will regret later in his life. I am so confused by this man who used to love me so much and is now completely indifferent to me. I know that he is gone and that I need to move on. I just honestly don’t know how.

        • Veronica says:

          It has been a week since my post and my husband continues to become more cruel to me emotionally with each passing day. Although he did agree to hold off on filing for divorce for a few weeks until he tries a new medication, he is insistent that this is what he is going to do. He states that our marriage is over, has actually yelled to me that he no longer wants to be married. He sold our camp trailer; which we both loved and today is having a realtor look at our home to put it on the market. He opened his own checking account and I just out he got a new phone and told our kids not to give me the phone number. I am hurt, and just trying to absorb all of the losses at once. Mostly the loss of the man I once knew. Where did he go so quickly? This man is not him….of course I torture myself by looking at old photos of us and reading old cards he wrote to me. He is moving forward so quickly and I know that he just wants me out of his life. I wonder if he will ever miss me at all or if he will ever have any feelings towards what he has done?

  4. Katherine says:

    I have to say that I have found these blogs incredibly useful. I have read them dozens of times each time I can’t understand him. My partner left without any notice whatsoever. The hardest thing I find is holding onto the memories of how much fun, loyalty and love we shared. I never would have expected what happened. It seemed so far removed from who he was, what we were. It was so disrespectful. I try and be understanding but I want to be angry and I think I should be. I don’t want to excuse it – it’s not ok. In many ways I want it over. I want him and his belongings which remain in situ out of my life. I want my friend gone because friends don’t do this sort of thing. I feel like I don’t know what to say to our joint friends. I don’t want to put him down because that’s not me and there’s an amazing side to him. But I don’t know this guy. He’s blamed me but doesn’t realise it. He denies it but its in his language. When something happens like this it creates a defence moving forward because it’s unforeseen and unpredictable. You can’t help but be embarrassed by it as though somehow you created it but logically I know I didn’t. No one is responsible for someone who doesn’t communicate and depression is no excuse for walking out. So now we are largely estranged, from closeness to such incredible distance in such a short time. Look it’s true he was distancing in the weeks before. I tried to communicate but he was angry. He saw me as the cause of his life falling apart, his loss of job. I was there for him, he just couldn’t see it. What I found strange was that he gravitated to really unhealthy friends in his life, single drinking males who let him down while avoiding the gorgeous reliable men in his life? I think they reflected back a him his self belief he was no good. If only he could see his talent and that this and his incredible presence defined him. I know we will be no longer but perhaps something positive will come out of this. He’ll work out his value because he lost something special. He’ll gravitate towards healthier friends as he learns what he is worth and that i will remain open and take forward the blessings in this relationship while being appropriately angry about how wrong the ending was.

  5. Jan says:

    I just found this and it has helped so much. Now… to put it into practice.

    I met the guy of my dreams 9 months ago today. We’ve both been through some very difficult relationships – both been left and cheated on, etc. We thought we’d finally found each other. I always joked about us being old together and that I would have to be the one to die first in old age because I would miss him too much. The whole relationship was so lovely. We always held hands. We spoke every day throughout the day, all day. He always said he loved me, xoxo’s, bought me little love tokens, etc. It was sweet. 5 weeks ago, his father who’d been suffering from lung cancer (whom he had a very severed relationship with due to abandonment when he was a kid, but my ex was trying his best to be there)took a turn for the worst. I suggested that he go over there as quickly as possible, as he might not have a chance to say goodbye otherwise. He did and he helped his father the last week of his life. He saw his dad suffer a great deal, but he never got what he wanted, that resolution. His dad. He called me throughout, with updates, to unload, etc. He wanted to come home for a couple of days (his dad lives in another state) for some ‘normalcy’ before heading back to deal with the aftermath. He really wanted to come straight to me before he headed to his own house. He asked me to go with him and his son to the funeral, etc. for support and I went, in a heartbeat. It was difficult. I saw him start to shut down. His relationship with his step and half brothers is chaotic, but family nonetheless. After the funeral we headed back home, where Christmas awaited us 3 days from then. It was more chaos, it was busy, it was a whirlwind of having to do last minute shopping, wrapping, hosting dinner, etc. 3 days after Christmas he decided very impulsively to quit smoking. He warned that he’d probably be a not so nice person for the next few weeks. Between Christmas and New Year’s he became more distant, detached, numb, sad…A couple days later I noticed that our online communication was a little different, not as warm, etc. That night I asked him if everything was ok, if he wanted space to himself that weekend, I was more than happy not to go to his place for the weekend if he just wanted to be by himself. He said he had a lot things in his head, a lot of things were coming up. I had him call me to clarify a few other cryptic things he said in text and he just said it, with no hesitation…I don’t think my heart feels as strongly as yours does for mine. I’ve tried so hard to feel ‘passionately in love’ with you but that should just happen on its own. (I WAS IN SHOCK) He doesn’t feel ‘in love’ with me. He thinks I’m amazing, caring, supportive, the most amazing woman he’s ever met but he can’t feel that ‘passionately in love’ piece that he once felt. (Who does after nine months???) I asked how long he’d been feeling this way and he said 4-5 weeks (basically 1 week before his dad took a turn for the worst.) That was that. He’s shut the door. The person I once knew is gone. What I’m hearing does not match what he was like. At all. He bought me a vintage typewriter for Christmas (I’d once said it would be fun to have so that I could type him love letters) that he carefully researched. 4 weeks prior had bought me a sterling silver antique spoon that was stamped “I love you more than coffee”. 5 weeks prior had said in a text “When are you coming over? Feels like I haven’t seen you in forever. I had a bad dream that you broke up with me and I woke up all sad.” See what I mean??? I just doesn’t make sense. But he just turned that switch off. He told his neighbor that he thought I was amazing but didn’t want to screw up my life. He also said that I could be the perfect woman for him but he honestly didn’t feel ‘in love’ and no once could force him to feel that. I’m so confused. I’m so HURT and SHOCKED. I miss him like crazy. I failed to mention that he’d been on anti-depressants when we first started going out. He’d been on a pretty high dose of Lexapro for 2+ years. He decided to stop taking them cold turkey 4-5 months into our relationship claiming he felt better and that he wanted things to function a little bit better ‘down there’, which had been impacted due to the meds. I need advice.

  6. Carl says:

    My Ex fell into this trap, i to was blind sided by her depression, and before i knew she was gone and no longer listening to me. She to lacks awareness of her own depression, and its such a horror to lose someone you love this way. I feel for you all its so very hard.

  7. Kay says:

    These stories have been very helpful to me. My ex left after 22 years- just a few months ago. I knew he suffered from either bouts of depression or bipolar syndrome but was never diagnosed or sought treatment. Our relationship was up and down the entire time we were together. He went through many “new identities” that he would throw himself into but eventually would not fill the void and he would get worse with each failed fantasy. Jobs, sports, motorcycles and the last one, fundamentalist religion. At times he would move out for his new wonderful life and be back within a few days to a few months. With each zealous new passion, he would make some really bad choices and would ultimately end up with huge financial or personal issues but he always was, in his mind, the victim of circumstances or people. This last time it was me who was to blame and it was partially true. I had had it!
    A few month ago, I went back to our hometown to take a better paying job and he stayed behind to get the house sold. He was excited for a new chapter in life and flew out with me to get settled in a corporate apartment. Then everything went South. The company was unstable, the job was not what had been sold to me, the house would not sell. I became lonely, stressed, and needy being the breadwinner and used to making timely, proactive decisions. I was becoming irritable and depressed and I needed his strength, love and support more than ever. Instead he became deeply involved in his current fantasy-Fundamentalist Christianity. He read the Bible constantly, quoted scripture, and believed that Jesus would wash clean all of his sins and despair. A woman he worked with, who brought him to Christ, became his personal minister. Things got really bad after only a few weeks of my being gone, he was drinking heavily, not picking up the phone to me, and picking fights over everything. I finally told him if he kept it up he needed to leave. I flew home to get a handle on things and he was cold as ice. He finally admitted financial an medical problems that he had not shared with me. Two days later, he moved in with his Christian savior, telling me I was evil and the cause of all of his mistakes and unhappiness. The depression finally had complete hold on him. I have not heard from him and he did not respond to the one email I sent him. I subsequently found out that she had leased him an expensive new car and helped him get onto Social Security since he did not earn much of a living. Reading these stories helps explain the drama and insanity of untreated depression. I hope the new life he ran to gives him the excitement, success, and happiness he longed for. Right now, I am picking up the pieces and dealing with my own depression and codependence. Thanks for letting me share and for sharing your own stories.

  8. Jeanie says:

    In my case, it is not so much that I want to leave because I believe I will find a more fulfilling relationship elsewhere. It is because I genuinely believe I would be better off having only basic social contact for the necessities of life and otherwise, being a recluse.

    I have long-term depression that is now accompanied by chronic fatigue syndrome. I have come to the conclusion that both are because I simply feel nothing but stress in human interaction that leaves me far from happy. I realise it stems from a childhood in which from my first days of schooling, I was bullied as the fat kid. My parents just deemed me a nuisance and a problem if I told them about it so I shut up. They had no time for my individuality and regarded women as second class citizens: they would allow me no identity except as a future breeding woman and of course, when I rebelled and decided not to have children, I was deemed as totally irrelevant, a failure and not living in the “real world.” Even running a marathon elicited no response and when I challenged them about it, I was deemed as just demanding adulation! My first sexual relationship involved regularly being hit and my parents just accused me of “prostituting myself” and left me to it!

    Basically, I have never felt comfortable around people and over time, the effect has led me to the CFS because it takes so many resources to be in company. Human relationships seem to shut down my intelligence and faculties so I actually find I am more resourceful and upbeat on my own. It’s the only time I can relax too. Literally, with my partner, I am never relaxed (since 2005!). Fundamentally I know that being made to feel as nothing because I was born female and so weak and useless means that the context of a relationship highlights the fact I am a woman and can do nothing about it. The ability to have children has been a real curse and definitely not cause for celebration, particularly as I have always had menstrual issues that have seen me sacked from work and in great pain each month. At least if I am solo, this problem (sexual contact, being “the woman” etc) is not triggered and so I can concentrate on more important things that involve survival! I actually feel my survival is at stake in relationships at some level! And yet I was also regularly told how useless and stupid I was by my parents (lectures of several hours late at night so like brainwashing!) and therefore unable to do things on my own, which may well be why I feel stuck and have stayed!

    I am not sure everyone needs human connection. I really don’t feel I do and I am not sure it is a symptom of depression as I was always a loner as a child too. I just can’t see the point in human relationships and this has nothing to do with the individuals I am relating too. It’s just the way I am I think as I don’t feel lonely either.

    Does anyone else feel this way?

  9. eve says:

    Hello,

    This ‘active face of the illness’ is so comforting to know in a way!

    My recent ex partner of 3 years fits into this category of looking for the ‘fantasy of escape’.
    Its been about 2 years my ex has suffered from depression. Over the last 8 months this has got steadily worse – increased irritability, mood swings, withdrawl into her cave at home, long hours watching tv, playing online poker and drinking. Yes she sounds a bit like a man!

    Fast forward to now, she broke it off with me saying no love for me anymore, wants passion in her life etc. I can see through her facade – the fantasy of escape from feeling a void inside. Within days of ending it she had joined a dating website clearly she thinks of this fantasy of filling the void with passion.

    I have felt flat myself these last couple of weeks since the break-up but reading this site and others gives me a lift. All my ex’s behaviour follows what John and others with a depressed partner experience. I think having John spell this out – gives it a lot more weight given he has been there himself.

    I thankyou John for providing me with some comfort in this very difficult time.

    From here, i will try to keep my head above water and push myself to exercise and try to gain a sense of myself again . I do hope to keep the communication with the ex – she seems bit resistant this time but we did end the break-up with a fight (i did say somethings to her that she is probably holding onto like she can’t deal with shame – and her father made her feel shame for being alive). I hope with space she will allow me to be her friend and i’ll try to move on.

  10. Lola says:

    Reading this blog has helped confirm for me what I think is happening when I’m feeling in a positive mood about my husbands depression. We’ve been married 16 years and over the past 12 months I’d watched the signs of my husbands depression slowly returning (he’d suffered many years ago) he rejected the suggestion of going to the doctors for about 8 months till one day he had a melt down at work having thoughts of suicide. It was at this point he explained all the things which were making him feel like that which included me and our marraige. He told me he loves me but occasionally felt he wasn’t in live with me anymore. These were only occasional feelings but once it popped into his head he would struggle with the answer for days. He’s being treated with anti-depresents the dose if which has been increased each month and 3 weeks ago he was put on the highest. He has reached a point now where he feels like this about us 90% of the time it’s like the more he thinks and worries about it the more he confirms the answer to his unhappiness is us. All the things people have describe on here are like reading about my husband. Sometimes if he’s having an ok day he can be almost
    ‘Normal’ thoughtfull tactile however most of the time it’s like living with a stranger he’s short fused not violent but snappy with the kids all the time he’s isolates himself from most friends and family saying they don’t care about him anyway, this last week has been horrendous he tried an overdose on Sunday stopping himself half way through then Thursday night after a bad day he said he was sick of feeling like he does he doesn’t like himself and never has he said he couldn’t see how anything would ever change or make him better and he was sick if trying. He walked out leaving his keys and phone which he’d deleted everyone’s contact from bar mine and our teenage daughters. He’s home again now and when we talked he said some days he feels trapped like he’s suffocating. We’ve spoke about him moving out for a while to have his space and although he seems to want this he then changes this subject and it doesn’t come up again until another ‘bad’ day. He even says he loves the kids but doesn’t enjoy them he says nothing gives him joy. These are hard things to hear especially when I can remember the days when he was happy and enjoyed family and friends. He had his first session of CBT last week and I’m really hoping it will help him start to get well. Even if at the end if all this his feeling toward me haven’t come back I just want him to feel happy with life and get back to being a great dad his kids deserve I love him to death.

  11. nettieboop says:

    My husband is in a full-blown version of this exact thing!!!! He left 3 months ago. We seemed so good together, everything seemed fine, he just kept all of this inside. Says he’s been unhappy for years, trapped in a dark hole, etc. He claimed he’d been depressed for a long time. Change his appearance, his job, his friends, his musical tasted, hobbies, and now me. He started seeing another woman immediately (had had an emotional affair while we were together). I know there’s nothing I can say or do but any advice? How to react to his his shitty behavior? How to just be towards him? How to be supportive without damaging myself? I still love my husband so much.

  12. Happi says:

    Hi John….I am not feeling comfortable leaving my post up on your wall any more as I have others referred to your group now ….# 22 …could you please remove it? I would appreciate it :)
    Thanks Happi

  13. Olivia says:

    Wow, this blog post really hit close to home! Thank you so, so much. So glad to have stumbled upon it. I can relate to everything said, and many of the comments on here I can relate to as well.

    I hope to see more writings like this in the future, because this is one aspect of depression that isn’t talked about nearly enough.

    I am so glad to know I am not alone, and it is comforting to know that others out there experience what I do. In my worst moments of paranoia, anxiety, and depression I want to up and leave my guy and am convinced he doesn’t love me anymore…but once I’ve come back to reality, I see just how great he is and how I would be devestated if we parted ways. I don’t want my depression to ruin the greatest relationship I have ever been in, and will continue to fight it.

    • John says:

      Hi, Olivia –

      Good for you on getting the better of that urge to leave. There’s a moving segment on this in the PBS documentary The Misunderstood Epidemic. A woman discusses this same belief and how she almost left her family because of her depressed thinking and desperate need to find a way out of the illness.

      Thanks for your comment –

      John

  14. John says:

    Hi, Happi –

    From all these great self-learning experiences, it’s probably the last one that resonates with me the most. Until a few years before I was married – my first 25 years – I was in your friend’s shoes. It wasn’t just one person, though. Every time I thought I was falling in love, I was creating an image that had nothing to do with that person. While obsessed with that fantasy woman, I never got to know the real human being. Naturally, relationships couldn’t last on that basis. You’re fortunate – and have clearly worked very hard – to be able to recognize and learn so much from these key experiences.

    Thank you for telling all this here. My best to you!

    John

  15. Rob says:

    John,
    I’ve been searching for something like this for some time now. I have mixed up feeling regarding my wife of ten years. One minute I think I do not love her anymore and our marriage is causing my depression. Then on the other hand I believe its my depression causing the problems in the marriage. I have been diagnosed with depression, placed on meds and been to a counselor. Divorce would probably make things much worse but I’m just so confused. My wife in her defense is a good woman.

    • John says:

      Hi, Rob –

      I well understand that confusion of feelings since I went through a long period in the same state. I decided that trying to make a huge decision like leaving when I was so mixed up wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t trust my judgment and became skeptical of the fantasies of starting a new life. My wife and I finally reconnected in a big way – took a lot of work for both of us.

      I’d suggest putting a lot into counseling, maybe trying couples therapy too. I hope this works out for the best.

      John

  16. Susan says:

    John,
    I would really value your insight and help as I am having increasing difficulty dealing with my hurt, despair and overwhelming grief.
    I wrote to you on the “Talking to depression” thread on June 14th @ 2.50pm and I now see that this thread (Longing to leave) is more appropriate and has more current traffic.
    Can I refer you to mine (it was no 12) mentioned above and ask if you could find time to respond? I appreciate that mine was long and, perhaps, hard work.
    I am impressed and moved by the sincerity of your writing also by your analysis and discussion of complex and painful emotions that I’ve not previously seen expressed so well, so fluently or so honestly.
    Thanks
    Susan

  17. Depressed in Seattle says:

    This year is our 10 year anniversary and for the last 5 years or so since our kids were born, I have been throwing away everything that made me happy b/c I thought that is the sacrifice needed as a father. Now I am living in a place I hate without any friends and supporting my wife while she is in school. This has left me completely listless and without any love for life. I am needing more in life but have no time to pursue it and feel guilty for even wanting it. She says that it is too bad that they are not enough to make me happy. I keep turning to alcohol and have recognized this before and tried to quit. problem is my wife likes to drink and since she has no problem with it, I find myself drinking with her to feel like we are doing something together. Is it a fantasy escape to long for a life with no drinking and one where the mommy is at home being mommy OR am I just trying to set everything right (as I see it). Therapy was a joke when I went (I want to work out my current issues, not childhood ones.)

    Basically, she is threatening to quit school if I can’t get it together and now the added guilt is ripping me apart. I feel like I am going to lose her as soon as a ‘emotionally stable’ man who likes the sparkling night life comes along. I’m just lost…

    • john says:

      Hi, Depressed in Seattle –

      I’m glad you wrote and can describe how you’re feeling – a lot of people don’t get that far in a situation like this. There are a couple of things that stand out. One is that you make it sound like you’ve passively gone along with big changes while resenting them. I say “passively” not because you haven’t taken action but because you’re responding to circumstances you haven’t initiated. I know it’s easy to do things because you think you should but not when it’s damaging to yourself. The thing about drinking is an example – a really dangerous one because of the added potential for addiction you evidently feel. You don’t have to drink with your wife – period – especially if you’re doing it to “help” the relationship. Instead, you could have a serious talk with her about why drinking could be bad for you and your need to stop. I would ask for her support either by not drinking in front of you or stopping altogether. The danger of addiction – even if it seems too minor to call it that – is too serious. I have the, perhaps mistaken, impression that you haven’t had a discussion with your wife in which you both talk freely about your needs – carefully listening to each other without blame or contradiction – and try to work out ways to help both of you. Yielding to her needs while feeling resentment doesn’t cut it. If you can’t do that together, I would seriously look at couples therapy.

      It’s encouraging that you sought help from a therapist for yourself, but it sounds like you’ve dismissed it too quickly. There are many forms of therapy out there that don’t emphasize the past at all – that approach is classic and based in the psychoanalytic model that started with Freud. It does sound, though, like you’ve developed self-defeating patterns of behavior, and those almost invariably get started as survival mechanisms from early family life. That’s why a therapist would want you to look back. But other therapies don’t do that. Instead, they focus on you’re seeing whatever patterns there are in your behavior – and the way you think about your life – and work with you to change those directly, without worrying about where they came from.

      As I say, I could be going off in the wrong direction with all this, but I hope some of it is helpful.

      I wish you the best in turning this around.

      John

  18. Worried says:

    John,
    I just came across your site by accident today. This is so insightful. My husband has depression. We’ve been together nearly 20 years, and we have 3 young children. I have been so confused & hurt by the things he has said & his actions in the past year. I realize now that it is the depression that is saying these things & not him.

    I have an appointment with a counselor this week. He has had one, but didn’t make another. He has met with a sleep specialist, he didn’t like what he had to say either. He is searching for an external solution to his problem. He blames me most of the time. I have been relying on friends and family for the past 2 months. I’m not sure how this can get this bad when I’ve never seen it before. I’m terrified. We were the couple that everyone thought would be forever. No one has ever doubted us. Now he says that we are incompatible & that our marriage won’t work out.

    I am living day to day. Last week was terrible. Over the weekend I found new strength to love him & support him while taking care of myself & our children first. He told me this weekend he does think he has depression, I take that as a good first step. He has been taking medication for the past 3 weeks. Having the patience to sustain this medication roller coaster is terrifying, but again day by day. I hope that he will schedule another appointment with a counselor soon. I miss my best friend. I miss him. Thank you for your insight & God Bless your wife. I find myself praying nearly constantly through the day these days, usually only for strength & patience for me, protection for our children, and safety for him. Those are my 3 biggest requests.

    Thank you again for this site, it is being bookmarked by me today. I suspect I will visit you often. Nothing personal, but I wish I didn’t have to. (Your wife doesn’t have one too does she?)

    • john says:

      Thank you, Worried –

      I’m sorry that you need to seek this sort of advice at all, but I’m glad you’ve stopped by. It sounds like you’re doing all that you can do – taking care of yourself is so important. Working with a counselor will help some, I hope – writing about the depth of hurt and fear also helps – whether you share it with others or just do it for yourself.

      It’s an excellent sign that he’s admitted to depression and is seeking help. I hope he goes beyond medication, though, since that rarely eliminates depression by itself. Therapy is extremely important. I hope he can bring himself to talk honestly with a therapist or counselor – so many men understate what’s wrong.

      There are a lot more posts here about this problem, and there are others I’ve been writing for Health Central’s MyDepressionConnection page. Here’s the link to those.

      My very best to you –

      John

  19. שוקולד says:

    I can definitely agree. Only after getting some professional help i understood how the heavy lifting must be done alone, no one can do the work for me, and i can’t do the work for no one.

    Its hard to acknowledge, though, our brain seems to simplify things, and refuses to see how other peoples issues are different than ours, even if the symptoms are similar.

  20. Graham says:

    Wow. I have never heard or read anything so insightful on feelings so hard to capture. Being only 22 years old myself, and aware of my depression for only one of those years, I am slowly learning more and more about my condition. Depression has been at the root of my self-medicating drug abuse and alcoholism, as well as problems with the most wonderful woman in my life. It is exactly as you put it: “fantasy of escape.” Thank you for this wonderful article.

  21. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for saying it out loud. I haven’t dreamed of another partner, so much as I’ve dreamed about having our life back. Or perhaps, of being single.

    I’ve been married 25 years to a man who has a family history of severe depression in the men about mid-40s. All of a sudden, I don’t know this man who I’ve been around since I was 13 years old. I know it’s an illness. But, dang it, why won’t he go to a doctor consistently and try to mitigate the serious symtoms?

    Do I love my husband? Absolutely. Do I like living with my husband. No.
    I miss who he was and I miss our life together.

    Anyway, thanks for listening.

    Cheryl

  22. http://zathynpriest.com/blog says:

    An incredibly inciteful post and I certainly hope others who are experiencing this get to read it.

    I too have seen many people reaching out for help in forums and depression chat rooms. Partners and friends desperately looking for any kind of advice. There is much information available on the WWW but too little from personal perspectives.

    I’ll be back to read through your site more thoroughly.

    -Zathyn Priest

  23. john@storiedmind.com says:

    Carol – I hope your man can get some recognition of what he’s going through soon, for the sake of you both. I know how many years my wife was battering at that shut door, and all she got from me were angry denials. I think he has to get to a point, as I did, where the external evidence of the impact of depression not just on him but on others is so overwhelming it just can’t be denied. As I said in that post, you need support too. I hope you’re getting it, and that your wait for the light to go on in his awareness won’t be too far off.

    JohnD

  24. Gianna says:

    There is something very close to the power of addiction in the fantasy of escape.

    Oh Jesus, you do really know. It’s utterly frightening.

    I don’t want another partner but the fantasy of being alone is very addictive and probably self-destructive.

  25. john@storiedmind.com says:

    It’s so good to hear, Graham, that you’ve become aware of what your going through and are getting help. At your age, I had almost no tools to work with. And what the insightful professionals are saying now is the sooner you start treating depression the better the chance its long term harm to your brain and body can be averted. Not to mention your relationship.

    JohnD

  26. Big Eddie says:

    My wife wanted a sense of hope, a promise that I would go back to a “normal” that was not representative of my life. How could I promise that? We met and fell in love during an unprecedented remission. She needed more passion and joy and novelty than I could ever squeeze out of my tired soul and she found it elsewhere. Six months after she left, I am just starting to dip my toes in the dating pool. When women ask why my marriage didn’t work out, I have no idea how to answer them. Part of me wants to say “She couldn’t handle my depression” part of me wants to say “She chose another guy over me” and part of me wants to say “I was so frustrated I inadvertently chased her into another guy’s arms, where I subconsciously thought she’d be better off.”

  27. Big Eddie says:

    Not quite two years ago we wrote our vows. Most things fell into place quickly except two wrinkles. I was hesitant about “as long as we both shall live” and “in sickness and in health”. If I got conked in the noodle and vegetated persistently, I wanted her to know that she should seek the support and companionship she deserved. She was OK with that. She saw these two phrases as part of a standard way of saying that we would love each other forever. I was OK with that. We left the phrases in.

    Fast forward just under one year. We had been married three months and I decided to audition for a play she was heavily involved in. I was lukewarm about it, but community theater was such a huge part of her free time and her social circle that I thought I should give it a try. Rehearsals threw off my sleep schedule and made it impossible to get to the gym. Work and rehearsals was stressful enough for my wife that she really needed to go out with the gang after rehearsal. Alcohol problems run in my family and I have bad hearing, so mingling in loud bars is not my cup of tea.

    I really thought she understood what was going on. She was staying out late and I was getting dark circles under my eyes, growing argumentative and withdrawing. She teaches at the same elementary as some of the teachers and counselors who gave me my earliest diagnoses. She knew I had been in and out of treatment for depression for the twenty years since third grade. She still did not comprehend the challenges of living with a depressed partner. Few people can before they do it.

    I could not be the happy-go-lucky, easygoing, always-funny conversationalist she needed. She and I met Dennis in that very community theater production and he seemed to fill some of her needs. I was exhausted from trying to be passionate enough, joyous enough, fun enough… I was almost glad to have a breather when she went out with Dennis. He was a close friend of her sister-in-law’s; it never occurred to me that she would leave me for him. Most of the people on her side of our wedding have embraced him and are relieved that she’s done with me. She brought the divorce papers by for signatures on our first anniversary.

    I cannot blame myself for everything. She clearly had a role. There was no adultery, but falling in love with another guy and pursuing that certainly constituted infidelity within three months of the wedding. Nonetheless, I have to examine my own role. I decided that I was the realistic person who had to put the damper on many of her wilder dreams and I resisted many attempts to draw me into the world of the living. Despair and isolation were familiar and comfortable. I had long believed that my great contribution to our marriage would be life insurance because I would die of grief. I could not imagine any other way to contribute to the world. I had no energy for life, but I had endless energy for picking fights, nagging and making excuses for antisocial tendencies.

    Splitting up forced me to take charge of my life and re-engage. I had been with her so long I was trying to coast to a healthier place or drift out of despair. Trying to keep up with her was exhausting. I was never quite enough for my effervescent, youthful partner of five years. She thought she was trying to be supportive and caring, but her disappointment always leaked through the façade and it made me feel like a total failure. If I added together my job, my hobbies, my friends, all of them together did not mean as much to me as making her happy, and I failed spectacularly. Now it’s time to see if I can make me happy (or at least less unhappy).

  28. john@storiedmind.com says:

    Cheryl –

    It’s so good to hear that you’re working with Al Anon, taking care of yourself, and that your husband is working on sobriety. It’s great that he’s open to seeking new help for depression too. I’ve had the painful experience of friends with this dual diagnosis, and each condition has its own formidable problems. I’ve been trying to capture in recent posts something about the impact of depression on my wife, and that’s painful to relive. Hopefully, your husband can get a sense of what you have to endure with him in this state – not to beat himself up with that knowledge but just to add to his awareness of what these conditions do.

    All best wishes to you,

    JohnD

  29. Cheryl says:

    Thank you, Big Eddie, for your insight. Your experience has been very helpful:

    “She thought she was trying to be supportive and caring, but her disappointment always leaked through the façade and it made me feel like a total failure. If I added together my job, my hobbies, my friends, all of them together did not mean as much to me as making her happy, and I failed spectacularly.”

    My husband often says, “I know you’re disappointed in me.” and “I just want you to be happy.” You’ve given me great insight into how my own feelings leak through in my daily life.

    JohnD….I am trying to care for myself. I have a counselor and am active in Al-Anon, due to my husband’s recent year-long attempt to drown himself in whiskey. And honestly, the companionship of others in the same situation has saved me. I was surprised to find so many dealing with serious depression too (both before and after alcohol came on the scene). He is about 90 days sober now, but unfortunately his depression has not improved. He did agree to try a new psych and perhaps different medication, but of course, the wait time is nearly THREE MONTHS.
    So we wait…

    Thanks again, for letting me post in cyber-anonymity. It’s nice to know others out there care.

  30. Amanda Collins says:

    You have described my, now ex-husband to a “T”. He has insisted that getting away from me and all we had to pursue a life he had in his youth. We have a deep bond. We stayed close and continued to see each other up until he left the country 3 days ago. I supported him and his pursuit of happiness and I only hope it leads him back to me. Thanks for your story, it gives me hope.

  31. john@storiedmind.com says:

    That’s a key point – refusing to see how other people’s issues are different from ours. The world gets so one-dimensional to my depressed mind. Everything seems to be about me – so maybe it’s not refusal but inability to break through that and really understand what someone else is going through. That’s very hard on a relationship. Is that what you’re referring to?

    JohnD

Trackbacks

  1. [...] the blog, “Storied Mind,” one of my favorite posts is “The Longing to Leave.” It’s one of the most [...]

  2. [...] affairs and divorce. But I suspect there are even more casualties with men’s depression. In a poignant blog post, John A. discusses his longing to leave a good marriage as the “active” face of the [...]

  3. [...] affairs and divorce. But I suspect there are even more casualties with men’s depression. In a poignant blog post, John A. discusses his longing to leave a good marriage as the “active” face of the illness. He [...]

  4. [...] affairs and divorce. But I suspect there are even more casualties with men’s depression. In a poignant blog post, John A. discusses his longing to leave a good marriage as the “active” face of the illness. He [...]

  5. [...] affairs and divorce. But I suspect there are even more casualties with men’s depression. In a poignant blog post, John A. discusses his longing to leave a good marriage as the “active” face of the [...]

  6. [...] often prompt depressed men to leave their families. You can find the first of those stories here, here and here. Those brief pieces tell only a small part of a long and troubling story. To stay in [...]



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